Wellington Scoop

Full repairs to burst wastewater pipe in CBD will take till end of week

problem pipes
RNZ photo

Repairs are continuing for a third day day today to fix a wastewater pipe that burst on Monday in the CBD and sent sewage into the street. Some traffic lanes have been closed because of the work.

The council’s Wellington Water company says a temporary fix was completed yesterday afternoon but the full repairs are expected to take until the end of the week.

During this time, Mercer Street is closed, Victoria Street from Harris Street has been reduced to one lane, and one lane is closed on Willeston Street turning towards Jervois Quay. And the walkway around the council building on Wakefield Street has been temporarily removed.

“While we’re working on the repair there maybe increased noise and smell,” says Wellington Water.

The company has been using “sucker trucks” which it says “were able to keep up with demand” on Monday night when there was no overflow or discharge into the harbour. There were additional sucker trucks on site yesterday to help with peak demand to prevent overflows into the harbour.

The company has today repeated its request for CBD residents to continue minimising wastewater usage. This means only flushing the toilet if you have to, waiting until your dishwasher/washing machine is full before you start it, having shorter showers and avoiding baths.

DomPost: Race against time to stop sewage overflowing into harbour

Wellington.Scoop – January 25
A wastewater pipe burst this morning at the intersection of Victoria Street and Mercer Street in the Wellington CBD.

Wellington Water reported (via a tweet) that as a result, wastewater was leaking on to the road and making its way to the Harris Street culvert near the Whairepo lagoon.

street sewage
Photo from Wellington Water

The DomPost reported that sewage from the broken pipe washed down the road.

At 1.20, another tweet from the council-owned company reported that repairs were underway.

It said there was no indication that wastewater had entered Wellington Harbour, but nevertheless there was a warning:

please stay out of the Whairepo lagoon.

And at 3pm:

There are eight traffic management sites in downtown Wellington as we repair a burst wastewater pipe on the corner of Mercer Street and Victoria Street. Traffic is reduced to one lane at the Victoria Street and Mercer Street intersection. We apologise for the inconvenience.

At 7.45, a message of more concern:

And at 9.45pm:

The following traffic management plans are now in place as we work on repairing the wastewater pipe.
Mercer Street: will be closed
Victoria Street: no traffic will be able to travel past Harris Street
Jervois Quay: no traffic will be able turn onto Harris Street.


  1. John, 25. January 2021, 13:52

    Oooops! A worry for all residents in the CBD as this is another spectacular failure of the wastewater reticulation. I trust that both Wellington Water and the City Council have given serious consideration to a program to oversee the condition of the pipes.

  2. Economissive, 25. January 2021, 16:30

    Look how far human progress has taken us. In the 1800s you’d still be walking through sewage, but you wouldn’t get a real time warning about it over the internet. [via twitter].

  3. TrevorH, 25. January 2021, 16:35

    @john: Too bad, ignoring sound accounting principles they spent much of the depreciation funding (intended for renewal of the pipes) on “other projects” eg trips to China, diversity pedestrian crossings and a convention centre. Now they are proposing to tax us twice with water meters. How they remain in office amazes me.

  4. Diane Calvert, 25. January 2021, 17:25

    We won’t get public support to discuss & debate residential water metering until we have the city’s main water infrastructure renewals under control. A distraction in the meantime. [via twitter]

  5. Diane Calvert, 25. January 2021, 20:42

    This is also part of the reason I’m sceptical about water meters. WW needs to sort its own house (well pipes) before embarking on the costly capital investment of installing water meters in our homes. I worry water meters will become a distraction from fixing public pipes now. [via twitter]

  6. David Cormack, 25. January 2021, 20:43

    This has got to stop. What sort of tin pot city is Wellington? Where’s the mayor while this continues to happen time and time again. [via twitter]

  7. michael, 25. January 2021, 21:14

    Free WCC gumboots for all might be on the cards soon as we wade through sewage in the CBD.

  8. KT, 25. January 2021, 22:38

    Water meters don’t fix this now all too regular problem … if you’re responsible for managing and asset and the asset keeps failing, the problem is closer to home. This isn’t good enough, we’ve had a mayoral review, now what? Time to up the ante. [via twitter]

  9. Super Farm Man, 25. January 2021, 22:40

    KT is right. Sadly, neither the Council proper nor Councillors will ever be able to fix this. Commissioners required. Reset. And some interest from Central Govt. Which, they may get, as having a pooh in Wellington is going to become increasingly difficult. [via twitter]

  10. Fleur Fitzsimons, 25. January 2021, 22:49

    We don’t need meters to know our public pipes are leaking, failing and urgently need repairing and upgrading. [via twitter]

  11. Toni, 26. January 2021, 0:08

    @Dianne Calvert: Why are you suggesting it is WW who should get their house in order when the current state of our infrastructure is the result of consistent underfunding over countless years by WCC, and this started well before WW took over in 2014. An independent report commissioned by WW found that WCC “regularly declined” requests for money to upgrade aging pipes, despite being warned of “extreme risk”.

    But, regardless of any of this, Wellington’s infrastructure is WCC’s responsibility and therefore the buck stops with them and it is past time they recognised this and stopped blaming others.

  12. Toni, 26. January 2021, 0:57

    Infrastructure failures and water meters are two separate issues. What’s wrong with water meters as long as there is a rebate on your rates? Currently we pay a fixed water charge as part of our rates regardless of how much water we use. So smaller households and environmentally focused people are generally subsidising larger households, and/or households with larger gardens that need watering, and/or properties with swimming pools etc. Therefore, those with high water usage are far better off unmetered than those with low water usage. Residents in high-rise buildings in the city are already on metered water, so why not everyone?

  13. GrahamCA, 26. January 2021, 6:55

    So WCC closes Victoria Street diverting two lanes of southbound traffic on to Jervois Quay; but wait there’s more – Cable Street is down to one lane instead of three creating an even larger jam and further delays.

  14. Kara, 26. January 2021, 9:25

    Good that WCC Councillors are listening to, and supporting our opinions on water meters. Wellington Water should know that we don’t want or need water meters.

  15. Alastair Thompson, 26. January 2021, 9:57

    So Wellington built masses of inner-city housing without providing the necessary investment to upgrade sewage infrastructure to accommodate more people? Is this about right? [via twitter]

  16. Conor Hill, 26. January 2021, 9:59

    There’ve been lots of issues in south wellington too which is hardly built up. [via twitter]

  17. Claire, 26. January 2021, 10:51

    Conor. Older inner city suburbs are already dense and house a lot of people. Newtown has 8500 people. Our sewer system would be one of the oldest. Maybe we should test it with six storey buildings.

  18. Georgina Campbell, 26. January 2021, 11:02

    Wellington Water is holding a media briefing at 12.15pm on poo-gate. Mayor Andy Foster will also be attending. [via twitter]

  19. TrevorH, 26. January 2021, 11:58

    @Georgina Campbell: well that should be fun, because the blame for the 3 waters apocalypse lies squarely with the WCC who by their own admission have diverted significant funding intended for the renewal of these crucial assets to “other projects” and have reportedly declined requests for urgent funding on a case by case basis. Not much wriggle room left really.

  20. Peter Steven, 26. January 2021, 13:00

    Claire, have ever ventured off these shores? Newtown is mostly one storey standalone houses. I wouldn’t call that dense by any stretch. In places like Hong Kong there are probably 8500 people in a single high rise. One great thing about increasing density in Wellington is that the tax base per km^2 will be greatly increased so we can actually afford nice things, like working sewerage pipes and trains through the city (one can hope).

  21. Claire, 26. January 2021, 14:44

    Peter it is one of the densest suburbs in Wellington. It was designed like that, as only the working people were going to live there back in the 1870s.
    Yes Peter I have been to thirty countries which helps me to see what not to do in our fair city.

  22. Joel McManus, 26. January 2021, 15:19

    Wellington Water is sending all the sewage from the broken pipe to a backup storage tank under the Michael Fowler Centre. If they can’t get fix it in time, that sewage will spill directly into the harbour. The storage tank currently has about 1 metre of space left. [via twitter at 2pm]

  23. Dan Henry, 26. January 2021, 15:21

    Can we pump it into the Convention Centre? [via twitter]

  24. Andrew, 26. January 2021, 18:17

    Hang on, isn’t the holding tank under the car park adjacent to the MFC? Remind me what is on top of that now?

  25. Don M, 26. January 2021, 20:09

    Sure the drains may be collapsing, but hey, look at the cycleways…

  26. Dave B, 26. January 2021, 20:19

    Our elderly drains cannot cope with any more money being poured down them.

  27. michael, 26. January 2021, 22:32

    Andrew – the temporary ballet school is on top of the tank in the carpark area. Amazing to think that, after spending $millions putting in the tank with its feeder pipes, the council actually put that carpark up for sale. No idea what they thought would happen to the enormous tank below if the sale had gone ahead for a high-rise building.

  28. Fleur Fitzsimons, 27. January 2021, 9:35

    Pretty disappointing to hear the comments from business and residents on Morning Report re communication on the pipes problems. Basic communication and information is the least that can be done. Will follow up again. [via twitter]

  29. Peter Kerr, 27. January 2021, 12:19

    Diane Calvert’s comments above are disingenuous; they deflect responsibility onto Wellington Water and are a diversion from the problem at hand. Likewise, her disappointment at hearing criticism of communication. It’s time to wonder if any Councillor understands the implications of his/her job.. That is, they direct the executive on necessary works and projects.
    The point behind triennially voting is all but lost on me; we’re voting for people who are neutered through deference to an executive, and I don’t see any remedy.